"Charles Dickens as he appears when reading." Wood engraving from a sketch by Charles A. Barry (1830-1892). Illustration in Harper's Weekly, v. 11, no. 571, 7 December 1867, p. 777.

2018 Program

Download the Full Program and Booking Form here. 

Day 1: Thursday, 25th October

Registration – Outside the Ibis Room, The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park

From 2pm

Lord Mayor’s Reception Lord Mayor’s Reception Room, Town Hall


Day 2: Friday, 26th October

8:30 - 9.00am

Conference Daily Brief - Coffee and Tea available

9.00 - 10.00am

10.00 - 11.00am

Morning Tea at The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park

11.00 - 11.30am

11.30 - 12.30pm

Lunch at The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park

12.30 - 1.30pm

2.00 - 3.30pm

Free Time

5.30 - 7.00pm

7.00 – 10.00pm

Dickens Trivia Night at The State Library of NSW

Day 3: Saturday, 27th October

8.00 - 9.30am

Conference Daily Brief - Coffee and Tea available

Dickens Fellowship AGM at The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park

11.30 - 12.00pm

Morning Tea at The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park

1.30 - 2.30pm

Lunch at The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park

3.30 - 5.30pm

Free Time 

Day 4: Sunday, 28th October

8.30 - 9.00am

Conference Daily Brief - Coffee and Tea available

11.00 - 11.30am

Morning Tea at The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park

12.30 – 1.30pm

Lunch at The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park

5.00 - 7.00pm

Free Time

7.00 - 8.30pm

Film screening of ‘The First Fagin’ and dinner at The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park

Day 5: Monday, 29th October

8.30 - 9.00am

Conference Daily Brief - Coffee and Tea available

11.00 - 11.30am 

Morning Tea at The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park

12.30 – 1.30pm

Lunch at The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park

3.30 - 5.30pm


Farewell Drinks in The Bar, The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park

Optional Day: Tuesday, 30th October

The optional day is designed to give an opportunity for our international and interstate visitors to explore more of Sydney. Please note that the optional day is an additional cost of $140.


Sydney Opera House Tour

12.30 – 2.30pm

Sydney Harbour Cruise and Lunch




Dickens in the colonies: Australian responses to the world’s favourite writer

How was Dickens received in Australia? Did Australians queue on the docks to hear the fate of his characters, as they did in America? How did they interpret Dickens’ stories in the context of Australian life? Which of Dickens’ characters spoke to Australians most and why?

Dr Kylie Mirmohamadi and Professor Susan Martin are the authors of Colonial Dickens; What Australians Made of the World’s Favourite Writer. From the streets of nineteenth-century Melbourne to crowded colonial theatres, they will trace the ways in which Dickens and his works were read, re-read and reinterpreted in distinctly Australian ways.

When: 9.00 – 10.00am, Friday, 26th October

Where: Ibis Room, The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park


Charles Dickens’ sons in Australia

Two of the sons of Catherine and Charles Dickens migrated to Australia. Alfred D’Orsay Tennyson Dickens arrived here in 1856, followed by his brother Edward Bulwer Lytton Dickens three years later. Why did they decide to come so far from home or was the decision made by Dickens? How did their make their way in Australia?

Booker Prize winner, prolific writer and a lover of Dickens’ work, Tom Keneally, will explore the fate of Alfred and Edward in Australia.

When: 10.00 – 11.00am, Friday, 26th October

Where: Ibis Room, The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park


Fallen Women

The fate of the ‘fallen’ woman is a preoccupation of eighteenth and nineteenth century literature. From Oliver’s mother and Nancy in Oliver Twist, to Little Emily and Martha in David Copperfield, there are many 'fallen' women in the works of Dickens, and Dickens himself worked to rehabilitate real-life fallen women with the aim of preparing them for life in the British colonies, including Australia, South Africa and Canada. This talk by Dr Olivia Murphy looks at how such women are represented in literature in order to explore the ideas Dickens inherited and those that he helped propagate.

When: 11.30am - 12.30pm, Friday, 26th October

Where: Ibis Room, The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park


State Library of NSW

State Library of New South Wales Opening of the Conference Charles Dickens display

The Librarians of the State Library of NSW have searched their collections and created a display of for Dickens- related items for the Conference.

These include Dickens-related original manuscript of Dickens’ Emigration (c. 1852) sent by Dickens to Miss Coutts, a letter (1865) from Dickens to Archibald Michie written from Gad's Hill Place, thanking him for his interest in his son Alfred and also for his invitation to visit Australia, a complete set of the pirated Launceston editions of The Pickwick Papers (August – December, 1838) and a copy of the dramatization of Barnaby Rudge by Charles Selby notated by the prompter of the production.

An archivist will talk about these items after an address by Dr John Vallance, NSW State Librarian.

When: 2.00 - 3.30pm, Friday, 26th October

Where: State Library of NSW

Circular Quay

Writers' Walk: Circular Quay: A guided tour by Susannah Fullerton

By glorious Sydney harbour there is a Writers' Walk, with brass plaques set into the pavement commemorating writers’ visits to the shores of Sydney harbour. Some came from other parts of Australia, but other writers made the arduous voyage from Britain, Europe or the United States in order to see Australia for themselves.

Plaques include Trollope, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Joseph Conrad, Kipling, R.L. Stevenson, Mark Twain, D.H. Lawrence, and Umberto Eco, but also local authors Patrick White, May Gibbs, Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson.

Susannah Fullerton will lead a guided walk along the Writers' Walk. Learn about the many fascinating writers who came to Sydney, discover which of their comments about this city were immortalised in quotes, and enjoy the stunning scenery near Sydney's Circular Quay. (Note: Susannah will conduct two tours of one hour each.)

When: 3.30pm - 5.30pm, Friday, 26th October

Where: Circular Quay


Dickens Trivia Night at The State Library of NSW

Do you know your Pumblechook from your Pecksniff? The State Library of NSW has created a Dickens Trivia night to test our knowledge of Dickens and his life and times at the Library. We will be joined by other Dickens lovers from Sydney. Teams can be a maximum of eight members so start revising your Dickens trivia now.

Please note that dinner is not included in this event. A cash bar for drinks and nibbles will be available. 

When: 7pm – 10pm, Friday, 26th October

Where: State Library of NSW

Ikey Solomon.jpg

Was Fagin modeled on my great-great-great uncle, Ikey Solomon?

Fagin is one of the most vivid characters in Oliver Twist, one of Dickens’ most popular books. He is widely believed to be based on Ikey Solomon, a receiver and fencer of stolen goods, who was transported to Tasmania in 1831 and died in Hobart in 1850. Sydney bookseller and book collector Scott Whitmont is directly related to Solomon. He will talk about what made Ikey so fascinating to Dickens, drawing on the book, The First Fagin: The True Story of Ikey Solomon by Judith Sackville-O’Donnell.

When: 9.30 - 10.30am, Saturday, 27th October

Where: Ibis Room, The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park

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What shall we have for dinner? Advice from Mrs Charles Dickens

In 1851, Catherine Dickens published a diminutive book of menus or ‘Bills of Fare’ under the pseudonym Lady Maria Clutterbuck. Several more editions followed, with recipes included. This kind of work fulfilled a need for a burgeoning middle class in the UK, but even more so in the Australian colonies, with readers hungry to learn how to dine and entertain in a manner expected of their newly acquired (or aspired) status.

Sarah Wentworth, a ‘currency lass’, and wife of William Charles Wentworth of Vaucluse, is typical of many aspirational Australians who may have looked to Lady Clutterbuck for advice to impress highly judgmental colonial society. Jacqui Newling presents. 

When: 10.30am - 11.30am, Saturday, 27th October

Where: Ibis Room, The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park



Collecting Dickens Downunder

The owner of a personal library of more than 12,000 books, focusing on English literature from 1750-1950, with a particular interest in the Victorian era, Professor Chris Browne acquired his first Charles Dickens first edition in 1973, just before he left the UK to migrate to Australia.

The talk, illustrated by examples from his own collection, will suggest some different approaches to constructing a Charles Dickens collection.

When: 12.00pm - 1.00pm, Saturday, 27th October

Where: Ibis Room, The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park


The story of Sydney's statue of Charles Dickens: Sandra Faulkner

During the Conference’s excursion to Centennial Parklands Sandra Faulkner will tell the story of Sydney’s statue of Dickens. She will relate the statue’s history, its disappearance and her subsequent discovery of its whereabouts. She will talk about the restoration work carried out on the statue prior to returning to its original home on Dickens Drive in the Parklands on 7th February 2011.

One of only three known statues of Dickens in the world, the statue in Sydney is not only of great significance to Dickensians, but can also be enjoyed by all who visit the Parklands.

When: 2.30pm - 3.30pm, Saturday, 27th October

Where: Dickens Drive, Centennial Parklands

Vaucluse House.jpg

Banquet Evening

Vaucluse House is a beautiful example of colonial gothic architecture, built in Charles Dickens’ era. The estate is unusual in that it retains over ten hectares (29 acres) of its original land, extending right down to the harbour foreshore. Home to influential William Charles Wentworth and his family, colonials with an intriguing convict past, the house retains many original features, including bathrooms and 1830s kitchen, and furnishings owned by the Wentworth family. 

The Conference has been granted special access to Vaucluse House. At twilight our guests will wander through the Vaucluse House pleasure garden and enjoy canapés and drinks on the verandah followed by a unique private viewing of the house, which will be lit by candlelight. An original copy of Household Words will be displayed in situ.  

After viewing the house, guests will walk a few metres to the Vaucluse House Tearooms located on the estate, where Jacqui Newling, resident gastronomer at Sydney Living Museums (and speaker at another session at the conference), will discuss the relevance of the menu she has created; a modern twist on dishes taken from 'Bills of Fare' in Catherine Dickens' book What Shall We Have for Dinner? including roast saddle of lamb and Cabinet pudding. (There will be options for vegetarians.)

A souvenir menu annotated with tasting notes will be available for each guest.

When: 5.30pm - 10.30pm, Saturday, 27th October

Where: Vaucluse House


The Mesmerising Dickens: Madame de la Rue, animal magnetism and the 19th century colonisation of the mind

Dickens was introduced to mesmerism by his friend, surgeon John Elliotson in the 1830s and rapidly became fascinated by it, to the extent that he learned mesmerism himself and practised it on friends and family. The English-Swiss actress Madame de la Rue, who suffered from anxiety-based ailments, was one of Dickens’ most successful ‘patients’.

In this fascinating talk, Walter Mason will introduce us to an aspect of Dickens’ activities which will be new to many Dickens readers, in the context of the 19th century interest in the workings of the mind. 

When: 9.00am – 10.00am, Sunday, 28th October

Where: Ibis Room, The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park

charles dickens museum.jpg

The Charles Dickens Museum: literary shrine or cabinet of curiosities?

The family home where Charles Dickens began married life, became established as a writer and rose rapidly to international fame, is now the Charles Dickens Museum, for the study, appreciation and enjoyment of the life and work of Dickens.

A Grade I listed building, the Museum holds the world’s most comprehensive collection of material relating to Charles Dickens – over 100,000 items including furniture, personal effects, paintings, prints, photographs, letters, manuscripts, and rare editions. Dr Cindy Sughrue will talk about the Museum and its collection, including Dickens’ links with Australia.

When: 10.00am – 11.00am, Sunday, 28th October

Where: Ibis Room, The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park


Dickens in Australia through the Eyes of Trollope

Sadly, Charles Dickens never made a trip to Australia, although two of his sons lived here. However, in 1871 and in 1875 his contemporary Anthony Trollope visited Australia. What did he see and do here? How did he come to meet one of Charles Dickens’ sons? Would Dickens have agreed with Trollope’s conclusions about this country, and how might he have responded to the Australian landscape and people? Susannah Fullerton, author of Brief Encounters: Literary Travellers in Australia discusses Trollope's antipodean journey through the eyes of Charles Dickens.

When: 11.30am – 12.30pm, Sunday, 28th October

Where: Ibis Room, The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park

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Eliza Donnithorne and her Dickensian Connections 

Miss Havisham in Great Expectations is one of Dickens’ most memorable characters. The question of the extent to which she was a product of his imagination has been debated by literary critics, Dickens enthusiasts and local historians for a century and a half. This talk will examine the substance of the claims that Eliza Emily Donnithorne (1826-86), buried in St Stephen’s Anglican churchyard, Newtown (an inner suburb of Sydney) was a model for Miss Havisham. The talk will take place at the cemetery. Emeritus Professor Margaret Harris presents.

When: 2.00pm – 3.00pm, Sunday, 28th October

Where: St Stephen’s Anglican Church


Church Service at St. James

A traditional service in Victorian style with music of the era and social gospels to mark the conference and celebrate the life and work of Dickens. St James’ Church, with its Georgian town church exterior, was constructed between 1819 – 1824 and is the oldest church building in the City of Sydney.

The church was an important element of Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s town planning and was completely designed by Francis Greenaway and built by convict labour. Greenway was an English born architect who was transported to Australia as a convict for forgery. After arriving in Australia, he was responsible for design and construction of the Macquarie Lighthouse after which he was emancipated and made Acting Civil Architect for Governor Lachlan Macquarie.

When: 4.00pm - 5.00pm, Sunday, 28th October

Where: St James' Church Sydney



Film Screening: 'The First Fagin' 

THE FIRST FAGIN recreates the life of Ikey Solomon, the possible inspiration for Fagin in Oliver Twist and follows the twists and turns of his extraordinary life from underworld of Victorian London, the criminal justice system of 19th century England to the penal colony of Port Arthur. The film which is part narrative and part historical documentary is narrated by Miriam Margolyes, our patron. The evocative score is by Guy Gross, one of Australia's most prolific and honoured film and television composers.

This is an optional event at no charge.

When: 7.00 - 8.30pm, Sunday, 28th October

Where: Ibis Room, The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park

Reading Charles Dickens1.jpg

Why read Dickens today? 

Prominent Australians Give their Opinions

A panel of Australian writers including David Hunt talk about their love of Dickens and why his writing remains both relevant and enjoyable in the 21st century.

When: 9.00am – 10.00am, Monday, 29th October

Where: Ibis Room, The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park


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The Gad’s Hill Gazette: An experiment in print culture by Dickens’ sons

Despite Dickens’ imaginative involvement with children in his novels, there are few instances of bonding with his own children. However, father and sons were united in a creative enterprise in The Gad’s Hill Gazette (c.1861–1866), a weekly family newspaper named after Dickens’ family home in Kent. Professor Christine Alexander has traced down twenty-one of the few surviving issues of the Gazette in libraries in the United States and the UK.

This illustrated talk will suggest that not only is the Gazette a valuable source of biographical material on Dickens himself, but that this family ‘journal’ was both a theatrical gesture and a determined effort by Dickens’ sons to imitate the print culture of their father’s publishing world.

When: 10.00am – 11.00am, Monday, 29th October

Where: Ibis Room, The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park


Dickens and Crime Event Pic.jpg

Dickens, crime and the rise of police detective: Changes in policing in England and Australia

Dickens greatly admired the men of the emerging detective force, as seen in several pieces in Household Words strongly supporting those who were making London’s streets safer. What were the major changes in English policing in Dickens’ time and why did he offer such open support when so many were resisting innovation? What was going on in policing in Australia at the time? In a question and answer session, Dr Rachel Franks will discuss Dickens and the detective.

When: 11.30am - 12.30pm, Monday, 29th October

Where: Ibis Room, The Pullman Sydney Hyde Park


Hyde Park Barracks Tour

In groups of 26, we will be touring the UNESCO Word Heritage Listed, Hyde Park Barracks.

The Barracks are recognized for their global importance, along with 10 other convict sites around Australia, Designed by the convict architect, Francis Greenway and hand-built by convicts between 1817-1819 for convicts to live in, the Hyde Park Barracks is unique. Between 1788 and 1868, approximately 166,000 people were forcibly migrated across the globe to the then Australian colonies. Operating as a convict barracks for men between 1819 and 1848, the Hyde Park Barracks saw pick-pockets and pirates, confidence tricksters and conspirators, rebels and rascals within its walls. 

 When: 2.00pm – 3.00pm, Monday 29th October

Where: Hyde Park Barracks 


Dickens and the Art Gallery of NSW

Can we see Dickens in the Art Gallery of NSW? Indeed we can as Steven Miller will show us one of the earliest gifts to the gallery, a portrait of Dickens by J. S.  Bowman, as part of a talk on the Dickens-related material in their collection. He will also discuss the work of other Victorian painters in the collection like William Powell Frith, Frank Holl , Hubert von Herkomer and Luke Fildes, who were inspired by the social issues of their day, just as Dickens was. The talk will also highlight a book in the gallery library published in 1883 called ‘Twenty scenes from the works of Dickens’, which was designed and etched by the Australian Christopher Coveny.

When: 3.30pm - 5.30pm Monday 29th October

Where: The Art Gallery of NSW



Disclaimer: Events correct at the time of publication.